Weekly Columns

If you’re like me, there were few days on the calendar that I looked forward to more than the last day of school when I was young. As a parent, I understand how challenging the summer months are to keeping kids busy. Communities offer specialized programs to engage youth through public library reading programs, sports camps and Boys and Girls Clubs. For young people aiming to challenge themselves and make a difference in the lives of others, there is the Congressional Award.   

The Congressional Award program is a worthwhile experience for Arkansans interested in improving themselves and their community. It serves as motivation for young citizens to get involved in public service and inspires the next generation of leaders. The Congressional Award creates a valuable opportunity for our youth to highlight their potential by setting goals and being rewarded for reaching their potential. 

Established by Congress in 1979, the Congressional Award recognizes the achievements of young individuals who accomplish dedicated commitments through public service. This is the highest honor presented by Congress to America’s youth. Participants in this program earn bronze, silver, and gold certificates and medals based on their achievements. Each specific award requires setting goals in four different program areas: voluntary public service, personal development, physical fitness, and expedition and exploration.

Across the country, young Americans are setting ambitions goals, learning valuable skills and making a difference in their communities as they meet the requirements for the Congressional Award. From its most recent report of engagement, the Congressional Award Foundation found youth actively involved in the program have volunteered more than 970,300 hours of public service including more than 8,400 by Arkansas participants. 

We can be proud of the young Arkansans who are challenging themselves, improving their community and achieving their goals.

This year, Etana Morse of West Fork has earned the prestigious honor of the Congressional Award Gold Medal for her completion of 400 hours of voluntary public service, 200 hours of personal development, 200 hours of physical fitness and completion of an exploration trip.

Serving as a member of the Washington County 4-H Youth Development Club, and also creating a fundraiser campaign to support a non-profit organization, Etana is making a positive impact in her community while challenging herself. 

She is one of nine Arkansans who have earned the Congressional Award Gold Medal since 2020.

Nationwide, more than 50,000 youth are setting ambitious goals and taking actions to reach them all while demonstrating that personal growth goes hand-in-hand with serving others. 

I’ve seen the excitement surrounding the Congressional Award and the unique opportunities it offers young people. In recent years, the Congressional Award has partnered with 4-H and other youth organizations to encourage involvement and setting challenging goals.  

Earning the Congressional Award is an opportunity for youth to challenge themselves, learn new skills and better their communities. I encourage young Arkansans to explore this program to help shape their future. The Congressional Award program reminds us all our next generation promises great things for our state and our country.